Today is called Good Shepherd’s Sunday. The sheep and the shepherd know each other. How does the shepherd talk to the sheep? How does the sheep make known its needs to the shepherd? They understand each other. The sheep know the voice of the shepherd. The voice. If our shepherd is the Lord, as the Responsorial Psalm declared, then the question needs to be asked: “How can we recognize the voice of the Lord today?” How can we recognize the voice of The Lord when there are so many voices that we hear? You hear the voice of the vendors in the market, the voice of the politicians, the voice of business people, the voice of entertainers, the voice of advertisers, the voice of priests, the voice of parents, the voice of children. There is also an invisible voice which comes in the forms of likes and emoticons on social media.
How do we recognize the voice of the Lord in the midst of conflicting voices that we hear? My dear brothers and sisters, the voice of Lord is truly different and hard to. The voice could say plunge into the deep; but this voice could also say go up to the mountain and pray. This voice could say be light for the world; but this voice could also say go to your room and pray to me in private. This voice could be as soft as a whisper; but this voice could also be loud as thunder! This voice could say come follow me; but it could also say go and preach the good news. This voice could say your sins are forgiven; but the voice could also say repent! And turn away from sin.
My dear brothers and sisters, it is difficult to understand and hear the voice of the Lord because the voice of the Lord does not come from only one direction. Not only from one direction. Not only from two directions. The voice of God is everywhere. The voice of God is through everybody. The voice of God can be heard any time. And that is not only the Lord’s contradiction.
The question is what does He really love? The one lost or the 99 who are within the herd. When we feel that the Lord gave attention to the lost and if we believe that He left the 99, let us not forget that when He found the lost one, the first thing He did was to place the lost one with the 99. It does not mean that He ignored the majority. It does not mean that He forgot the one. It means He loves each one of us, He loves even those in groups. He loves their differences; He loves the uniqueness of each one of us. Contradiction.
The voice of God may be a contradiction for us. What should it really be? Should the shepherd smell like the sheep? But if we think carefully, if the shepherd really smells like the sheep, the sheep might follow other sheep! The shepherd has a scent that is not the scent of the sheep, and that scent is recognized by the sheep. This means that the shepherd is a shepherd and a sheep altogether. The shepherd smells like a sheep and smells like a person. The shepherd smells like a person and smells like God. That’s why we recognize Him. He smells like us but his scent invites us to cleanse our scent to be like Him. Contradiction.
Contradiction: Plunge into the deeper, go to the mountain; pray in silence and hide, or be the light that everyone can see. What is it really? Smell like the shepherd, smell like the sheep, or smell like the shepherd and sheep? What is it really? He loved the one alone, He loved the many, or did He love both the one alone and the many? Contradiction. What does this teach us, my dear brothers and sisters? If our perspective is that the world is black or white, the Good Shepherd tells us, “No, the world is black and white.” If our perspective of the world is that it should be right or wrong, the Shepherd tell us, “No, I speak to you when it is right and I encourage you. I speak to you when you are wrong, and I teach you.”
What is it really, day or night? Day and night! Is it right or wrong? Right and wrong! My dear brothers and sisters, is it left, or right? Left and right! This means up or down, left or right, front or back, these are together! The reason perhaps we cannot understand the Shepherd and we think He is a contradiction because our perspective is wrong. Perhaps our perspective is only one, not two. Maybe our perspective is selective, maybe our perspective does not recognize the value of differences.
The Lord looks contradictory and the voice sounds contradictory, but it is not so. The voice teaches us it is both black and white, it is both right and wrong, it is both lost and found, it is both individual and group, it is both individual and community. It is both, not either-or. Don’t consider it blasphemy, but this COVID-19 and God the Good Shepherd are the same. Why? Because COVID-19 infects you regardless whether you are rich or poor, Asian or European, young or old, illiterate or educated, male or female. COVID-19 takes on everyone, like God also, right and wrong, black and white, left and right, front and back.
The only difference, my dear brothers and sisters, is what the Lord offers to everyone— right or (and?) wrong, front and back, up and down—is salvation. COVID-19, however, is not the Lord and does not have the power of God; it gives us danger. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, choose. If you cannot understand the contradiction of the shepherd’s voice, it is not the voice that is contradictory, it is our minds that are prejudiced. If you cannot hear the voice of the Lord and it sounds contradictory, it is not the Lord who is contradictory. It is rather us who are biased, who are blinded.
My dear brothers and sisters, the Lord and His love is for everyone. The virus threatens everyone with sickness and death. But let us choose the Lord in being inclusive. Let us choose the Lord in being all-embracing; let us choose the Lord who unites and makes us one belonging to the same sheepfold. Before being Filipino or Chinese, we are people first. Before being Dilawan or DDS (Diehard DuterteSupporters), we are Filipinos first. Before we got sick of an infectious disease or remain healthy, we were created first by God. Before we became disunited, we were one country created by God. Before we became different from each other, we used only one language; this is not Tagalog, Ilocano, or Cebuano but the language of love and compassion.
My dear brothers and sisters, we will always be different from one another but only if we always look at our differences. Communist or capitalist, they steal from the rich; the priests are being shot; the (drug) addicts are being thrown. If this is our perspective, we will not hear the voice of the Good Shepherd because our ears have become one, no longer two. We only listen to the virus of violence, the virus of apathy, the virus of death instead of listening to the Shepherd who saves, unites, loves, and forgives. Let’s choose: Shall we serve the Lord? Shall we love like the Lord or shall we attack like the virus? As for us to believe in the Lord, we must serve the Lord, love like the Lord, and live for the Lord. That is our salvation. If we do not choose the Lord and the loving ways of the Lord, the virus may have a vaccine, but we will remain walking in darkness because we refuse to look at the brightness that comes from the voice of the Good Shepherd.